Essex County Council. June 6, 2018. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

Several Sides Sink Their Teeth Into Vigorous Debate Over Fluoride

It looks like fluoride won’t be in Essex County’s drinking water anytime soon.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit presented an oral health report at county council Wednesday night saying that local oral health is declining because fluoride is missing from the water system.

However, Essex County Warden Tom Bain says fluoride is not under the county’s jurisdiction and a decision to add it or leave it out is up to individual towns and water companies.

Dr. Wadij Ahmed, the acting medical officer of health, says local oral health results are concerning and adds that cavities for students are up with each student having an average of 2.5.

“Children with urgent dental needs has gone up by 57% and children with decay and urgent dental needs has gone up by 51%,” says Dr. Ahmed.

Many dental experts, including the Ontario Dental Association, sent correspondence to the county supporting water fluoridation.

The local health unit says poor oral health causes cardiac problems and strokes.

However, opponents of fluoride say it hurts kidneys, the liver, the thyroid and more.

Supporters say in proper amounts, fluoride is safe and effective.

Kingsville resident and former deputy mayor Tamara Stomp says the scientific studies are flawed.

She says she uses toothpaste with fluoride but adds that the American Dental Association warns her not to swallow it. Stomp says “the mass doping of water” is not the answer, adding that her teeth are just fine.

Dr. Anne Young, speaking on behalf of local pediatric dentists, told county council that local cavities are two times higher than comparable cities.

Kim Casier, the oral health manager at the health unit, says “it’s a silent epidemic.”

Essex County resident Kim DeYong told county councillors that fluoride does not prevent tooth decay and those who support it can’t prove it.

Some delegations want the province to research and mandate fluoride but there are no provinces that have done that, although some municipalities have reintroduced it back into the water.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit Acting CEO Theresa Marentette urges the county to reintroduce fluoride in drinking water for better oral outcomes.

“Nearly 1,000 children were seen in the Leamington office in 2017 to receive preventive services but this is not enough,” she says.

DeYong says the oral health report is flawed and questionable and points to Chatham-Kent, which has fluoride in the drinking water, as having a rise in cavities.

“Who has conducted the safety tests on your behalf and who will sign off that it’s a safer lifetime of swallowing,” DeYong says.